India's opposition parties have joined forces in a campaign against Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at a meeting held in New Delhi on July 11.
GV Andhra Pradesh building
SV Three politicians seated (in this order) Jyoti Basu (Chief Minister of West Bengal, former Prime Minister Charan Singh, former Foreign Minister, Vajpayee
SV PAN FROM Cameramen TO Charan Singh and Vajpayee talking
SV Andhra Chief Minister N.T.R. Rao (left of picture), Vajpayee (n centre), and Farook Abdullah, sacked Chief Minister of Kashmir
SV & CU Maneka Gandhi, (daughter-in-law of Prime Minister Mrs Gandhi) eating and discussing with Hegde (Chief Minister of Karntaka) and Bahuguna (leader of Democratic Socialist Party)
CU Maneka Gandhi
GV PAN Politicians, other officials seated facing each other at conference table (5 shots)
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Background: India's opposition parties have joined forces in a campaign against Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at a meeting held in New Delhi on July 11. Although the five-year term of the Indian Parliament does not expire until January 20, many political observers have called this meeting the beginning of the political campaign. The opposition leaders strongly criticised Gandhi and her Congress (I) Party for high-handed tactics and an undermining of democratic principle sin the recent dismissal of the Abdullah government in Kashmir. Dr Farooq Abdullah was Chief Minister of Kashmir for the past year before Congress (I) parliamentarians gave their support to 12 defectors from Abdullah's National Conference Party. Mrs Gandhi was accused of engineering this action which left Abdullah in the minority. He was then dismissed by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir instead of the usual alternative, which would have been to call elections. It is thought that elections would be won by Abdullah's Moslem supporters, rather than Hindu Congress (I) supporters. Dr Abdullah has long been accused of collusion with Sikh terrorists and this factor, as well as Kashmir's historic autonomy, has long dismayed the Prime Minister. The opposition parties who met in New Delhi ranged across the political spectrum, and included 19 different parties. The meeting was also attended by Dr Abdullah and Mrs Gandhi's estranged daughter-in-law, Maneka Gandhi. The Indian news agency, The Press Trust of India (PTI), called the five-hour meeting a 'rare show of unity' among the opposition. The Prime Minister was also blamed for two years of separatist violence in the Punjab, culminating in the storming of the sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar last month. In a statement issued by the now-united opposition, leaders condemned the dismissal of the Abdullah government and decided to present this protest to the president. Their next step, they say, is to work out an electoral agreement to put up a united opposition in the forthcoming general elections.